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January 7, 2011 / The Promiscuous Reader

The Unimpressed Reader

My son, I’m sure, does not sense any hyperbole in saying that he has been sent to the gulag.  When he returned from vacation his teacher made the announcement that students would no longer be allowed to read their own books at school.  Instead, they are now required to read the short readers that came with new program the school recently purchased.  Last night, he voiced his opinion in no uncertain terms.  The readers he said, were only twelve pages long, were totally uninteresting and (my personal favorite) were poorly written.  He was like Gru reading Sleepy Kittens in Despicable Me–not impressed.

My older son’s primary complaint when school starts back up each September is he no longer has enough time to read.  He also complains throughout the school year because he has to go to bed early and so can’t stay up until all hours reading without serious dark-circled consequences.   He was required to read two books this summer:  Huckleberry Finn and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.  He barely finished the first one and didn’t even crack the spine on the latter.  This despite the fact that in total, I’m sure he read well over 1000 pages this summer.  The two required books a)didn’t interest him and b)were uninvited and unwelcome guests on his vacation.

When it comes to reading, or learning anything for that matter, motivation matters.  This article about allowing student to choose their own books (within limits) ran in the NY Times about a year and a half ago, but in light of recent developments in our lives, is especially timely.  The two situations my kids, book lovers both,  have faced:  complete lack of choice and required reading upsets them but doesn’t keep them from reading.  I would imagine, however, for a struggling reader or one who is still developing the habit, it could be the last nail in the coffin.


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